by Dave Waddell
Over Mike Ramsey’s 30-plus-year tenure as Butte County district attorney, outside reviews of his rulings in officer-involved shootings have been, to use his word, “rare.” That dramatically changed in recent months as the office of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra is examining the facts and findings from two deadly Chico Police Department shootings in 2017.
A letter announcing a review of the July 23 shooting of Tyler Rushing has been made available to ChicoSol by his father, Scott Rushing of Ventura.
Earlier, David Phillips, father of Desmond Phillips, who was killed by Chico police last March 17, said he was told by Becerra personally that the AG’s office was investigating his son’s shooting.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey has absolved criminally the officers involved in the shootings. The AG’s review of the Phillips shooting began in “June or July,” Ramsey said.
The letter to Scott Rushing, dated Feb. 20, was signed for Becerra by Michael Canzoneri, supervising deputy attorney general.
“At your request, the Office of the Attorney General has officially opened a review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the officer-involved shooting and ultimate death of your son, Tyler,” says Canzoneri’s letter. “We are aware that the District Attorney for Butte County has already completed his review of the evidence and concluded no criminal charges should be filed against the officers involved. We have advised the District Attorney that we will be reviewing the evidence (that) was presented and his decision to not file charges. We have already requested, and anticipate receiving, the reports and digital evidence shortly.”
In a telephone interview with ChicoSol, Scott Rushing said “it’s just got to be extraordinary” for the AG to probe two shootings within four months involving the same police department.
“There must be something in the investigation of the two cases that has caught the attention of the attorney general,” Rushing said. “It’s just got to be rare that they would take a look at two officer-involved shootings in such a rural county. They just can’t willy-nilly investigate every request.”
In a follow-up email to ChicoSol, Rushing added: “We strongly feel an independent review of the evidence, away from the influence of the DA, will lead to the truth being told. I have always asked for the ‘unvarnished truth’ and my position has not changed. … Two Chico SWAT killings are now being reviewed: The killing of Desmond Phillips and the killing of Tyler. The family and friends of Desmond and Tyler have faith that these two investigations … will provide the transparency that has been absent in the Ramsey reports.”
David Phillips did not reply to messages to him seeking comment.
The AG’s press office issued its boilerplate “to protect their integrity we can’t comment on ongoing investigations.”
Ramsey said the AG’s office has the ability to review any case it wishes, but it happens only “occasionally.”
“They asked for me to send everything that we have (on the two cases), and I have done so,” Ramsey said. “Occasionally, someone (from the AG’s office) asks for some information, and that’s the last we hear of it.”
Chico State Professor Michael Coyle, an outspoken critic of the criminal justice system, when asked via email for his response to the multiple AG shooting reviews, replied: “I am of course delighted that the murder of any citizen by any agent of the state is under careful and serious investigation and review. The question I have is why in the second decade of the 21st century do we continue to support ‘wild west’ policy of state agents walking around shooting people – not to mention the mentally ill.”
Dave Waddell is news director at ChicoSol.